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Opinion: Find the silver lining in gym closures

Diversify your routine with calisthenics
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Even without public gyms, you can still add diversity to your workout. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
Even without public gyms, you can still add diversity to your workout. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

It has been a full year since my last workout in a public gym. Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, gyms were a big part of my life: I’d spend an hour, three days a week in the Goldring Centre with a weekly swimming session on the side. In the blink of an eye, my routine was taken from me

But I’m a firm believer in the saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” While I still miss public gyms, going a full year without weights has benefits, forcing us to grow and adapt.

With the pandemic forcing us out of gyms into the open, there’s still a bunch of ways to keep fit without losing your hard-earned gains. For me, calisthenics has been a game changer in the past year. 

In an article for Men’s Health, Kenneth Gallarzo defines calisthenics as “a form of fitness, which utilizes gravity and bodyweight leverage to challenge your fitness level.” And contrary to popular belief, calisthenics does build muscle just as much as a free weights workout. 

Your body responds to resistance, no matter how you create it. Whether you put your body under tension with an overhead press or handstand pushups, your shoulders will be under tension, forcing muscle growth. The tricky part is progressive overload, the gradual increase of weight in an exercise over time in order to increase muscle. Workouts from fitness YouTubers Andrea Larosa and Chris Heria helped me a great deal with that.

The other part of a balanced fitness routine is cardio. For those who prefer a warmer environment and sunny weather, going for a jog when it is freezing in Toronto may seem tricky at first. But with the help of a couple of layers and a thick beanie, I get warmed up within five minutes of jogging and haven’t skipped a run once this year. 

While I still reminisce about public gyms, I prefer to flip the script, look at the bright side, and see this as a challenge to overcome. Moving from a heavier weights-focused routine to lighter bodyweight workouts could help you expand your horizons and appreciate more advanced bodyweight exercises, such as handstand pushups or side-to-side pull-ups. 

Now, I’m just looking forward to adding some diversity into my old workout routine as soon as the gyms reopen — hopefully in the not-so-distant future.